Senator Feinstein asks Energy Secretary Bodman about Oil Transparency

On February 11, 2008, California Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a letter (see below) to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman inquiring about the Department of Energy’s activities concerning peak oil. The letter references a recent report “Uncertainty about Future Oil Supply Makes it Important to Develop a Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production” issued in February 2007 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report recommended that Energy Secretary Bodman

work with other agencies to establish a strategy to coordinate and prioritize federal agency efforts to reduce uncertainly about the likely timing of a peak (in global oil production) and to advise Congress on how best to mitigate consequences.

Feinstein notes that

The GAO found that we could more accurately forecast a peak in oil production with improved data
on oil resources and use. Reducing uncertainty regarding available oil supplies would increase stability in oil markets and allow for informed decisions regarding the development of oil alternatives.

For the past several years, energy investment banker Matt Simmons has spent much of his time stumping for Oil Transparency. His argument is that if we better understand the amount of oil left in the ground, we are in a vastly better situation for figuring out what to do about it and have a vastly stronger foundation for building the necessary political will to swallow potentially bitter pills. Simmons says the lack of greater certainty around our energy future enables us to complacently sit on our laurels as the window of opportunity for addressing peak oil narrows. He suggests making oil reserves data public worldwide, noting that exporting countries have not been forthright about their reserves.

An important International effort to make world oil production numbers transparent is the Joint Oil Data Initiative. It, however, does not address the most important data we need to make vital energy decisions − total remaining reserves audited by third parties. It is useful to know how quickly the car is using gas, which this initiative provides, but without knowing how much gas is left in the gas tank, we still can’t make important policy decisions.

A comprehensive Oil Transparency strategy would include the best information about oil still in the ground, as well as an understanding of the assumptions that go into world oil production models, what exactly is defined as oil, and how quickly and economically substitutes can be produced. Oil transparency can include alternative sources (like shale, tar sands, etc.) but must also openly consider the ecological and climate consequences of turning to these sources. Lastly, we need to understand how we came to be in this predicament. Deciphering U.S. energy policy over the past six decades will help us understand how we arrived to this perilous situation and what kinds of changes need to be put in place to make sure that the mistakes of yesteryear are not multiplied into the future.

We need transparency in all aspects of oil especially worldwide reserves data and its implications for future production for several reasons.

First, without this data, we are unable to predict when the world will reach peak oil, the point at which worldwide oil production inexorably begins to decline. Because our economies are completely dependent on highly available and inexpensive oil, knowing when the peak will occur is vital to planning our transition away from oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) claim that peak oil will not occur for several decades and argue that there is plenty of oil left to recover for future use. On the other hand, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO), which counts Simmons and many independent and respected geologists among its members, believes that the peak is just a few years away.

Second, valuable policy initiatives such as the Oil Depletion Protocol, in which countries agree to ratchet down their oil consumption in lockstep with the overall depletion rate, would work best if based upon accurate reserve and production data estimated using best practices yet to be established. The Oil Depletion Protocol is an innovative international agreement that will prevent resource wars over the remaining oil deposits which may be inevitable without this sort of agreement in place.

Third, oil transparency could be the linchpin that enables the country to buckle down and commit to a sustainable energy future. We sorely need a massive and immediate energy efficiency/conservation initiative to drastically reduce energy (and water) use in the next decade along with an intensive build out of a more sustainable and localized, renewable energy-powered economy over the next three to five decades.

We no longer have the luxury of planning our economy around speculative technological advances that may never materialize or believing that vast of amounts of energy resources will discovered or will replace oil just because they exist. We need a responsible energy policy that addresses both peak oil and climate change that has proven technologies at its core and rational standard methodologies for estimating EROEI and carbon emissions for all proposed alternatives. This is the leading possibility for a development of a responsible energy policy that will begin the transition towards a sustainable future.

Senator Feinstein finishes the letter by asking Bodman to describe

  • the course of action taken at the Department of Energy in response to this GAO report
  • the policy alternatives available to Congress and recommend a preferable approach.

A request for information at the Department of Energy has not yet been responded to.

If you agree with Senator Feinstein, consider

  • contacting Bodman’s office: (202-586-6210) Fax:(202-586-4403) E-mail: the.secretary@hq.doe.gov
  • expressing support to Dianne Fienstein’s Main Office at (202) 224-3841.

Senator Feinstein’s letter asking Energy Secretary Bodman about Oil Transparency is below.

February 11, 2008

The Honorable Samuel W. Bodman
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20585

Dear Mr. Secretary:

In February 2007, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report entitled Uncertainty about Future Oil Supply Makes it Important to Develop a Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production.

The report recommended that:

the Secretary of Energy work with other agencies to establish a strategy to coordinate and prioritize federal agency efforts to reduce uncertainly about the likely timing of a peak (in global oil production) and to advise Congress on how best to mitigate consequences.

I am writing to inquire whether the Department of Energy has acted upon this recommendation.

Congress acted to make our nation less susceptible to the impact of a downturn in global oil production when it passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. But an unexpected drop in global oil production would still cause tremendous economic harm. The GAO found that we could more accurately forecast a peak in oil production with improved data on oil resources and use. Reducing uncertainty regarding available oil supplies would increase stability in oil markets and allow for informed decisions regarding the development of oil alternatives.

I would greatly appreciate if you would describe what course of action you have taken at the Department of Energy in response to this GAO report.

Please also describe the policy alternatives available to Congress and recommend a preferable approach.

Knowing that there is substantial debate regarding the potential for a peak in global oil production, I look forward to hearing your views on this matter. I hope that we can work together to take any actions that may be appropriate.

About the Hubbert Tribute

The Hubbert Tribute is energy policy think tank and an online tribute to one of America’s greatest thinkers and scientists, M. King Hubbert (1903-1989). The tribute was first unveiled on the 50 year anniversary of Hubbert’s seminal speech in 1956 when he predicted that U.S. oil production would peak within 10-15 years. The purpose of this tribute is to raise awareness of and celebrate Hubbert’s accomplishments, so that industrial society can better understand the contemporary significance of his work. The Hubbert Tribute aims to uncover more contextual information about M King Hubbert’s work and to better understand how U.S. energy policy was architected over the past half century as well as to help guide policymakers toward a sustainable energy policy.

Over the past six months, the Hubbert Tribute has spoken with staffers with every major presidential candidate and provided information on peak oil. We have worked with renowned energy experts including co-authors of the DOE funded “Hirsch Report” Roger Bezdek and Robert Hirsch, and former industry expert Jan Lundberg among others to provide briefings to the campaign staff of presidential candidates. The Hubbert Tribute is partnering with Inspiring Green Leadership and other peak oil experts to offer webinars and briefings on peak oil and climate change to all presidential candidates with the aim of getting these issues on their radar − if not their platform.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peak Oil, Climate Change and Business: A Free Web-based Executive Briefing
This FREE sixty-minute live Executive Briefing addresses the most important elements of climate change, peak oil and how they affect each other. It includes a fifteen-minute question and answer period at the end with the presenter. The briefing is offered free to campaign staff by Inspiring Green Leadership, every other Wednesday at 12:30 – 1:30pm Eastern Time. Invite your friends! Sign up at least one day beforehand.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

Advertisements
Published in: on February 15, 2008 at 1:19 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://mkinghubbert.wordpress.com/2008/02/15/senator-feinstein-asks-energy-secretary-bodman-about-oil-transparency/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: